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Posts from the ‘Soups’ Category

Why Not? Add a Spoonful . . .

Brothy Pinto Beans with Harissa and Parsley

Brothy Pinto Beans with Harissa and Parsley

of Harissa to my plain bowl of brothy beans for lunch? Why not do the same a few days later with chickpeas and top them with garlicky sautéed mustard greens and feta? This was such a success that I taught it in a recent class and I’ve noted the recipe below. I use this wonderful smoky, spicy paste in this greens and bulgur dish and have been reaching for it this winter to enliven eggs, bowls of rice and now beans. There are lots of recipes online to make your own Harissa and my favorite store-bought brand is Mustapha’s.

Why not? has become my new teaching refrain as well.  It of course goes hand in hand with the cook-with-what-you-have approach of substituting and adapting on the fly and is a catchy enough reminder to not be bound word for word to recipes and thus make cooking more fun, less stressful and more satisfying.

A spice paste often from Morocco of chilies, cumin, garlic and oil.

A spice paste often from Morocco of chilies, garlic, lemon and oil.

I’ve had a couple of successes with the why not? approach lately. I added lots of sliced, raw leeks instead of a little onion to a gratin of root vegetables. Not sure why I’d never done that but it gave the gratin a lush, silky sweetness. I filled burritos with pinto beans and sautéed chard and roasted tomatoes. I made the Cauliflower Pasta Risotto that I wrote about here with Brussels Sprouts and bacon. And last night I thinned down heavy whipping cream with milk since the cream was so thick I thought it might not whip into a nice light topping for my son’s birthday chocolate pie. It worked beautifully! Sometimes the why not? approach is less successful as in the time I added some homemade vanilla extract (vodka plus vanilla beans) from a very fresh batch of extract to heavy cream that I whipped for some dessert and the cream tasted sour from the vodka that had not yet really been infused by the vanilla beans.

Have you had moments like these? Successful or less so? I’d love to hear about them.

Chickpea Soup with Sautéed Mustard Greens and Harissa

This is something I’ve been eating this winter for lunch with a variety of toppings or additions. It came about one day when all I had ready to eat was cooked chickpeas in their broth, a jar of Harissa in the fridge (and a few other things but they were not suitable for lunch). I heated up the chickpeas, added a little Harissa and a good drizzle of olive oil and lunch was had, with a piece of bread, I think. It was warm and nourishing and lovely. I like the addition of quickly sautéed mustard greens (or any leafy greens) and a little feta. This is just a basic template and another quick, cheap, delicious way to use those glorious chickpeas or any kind of bean you have around already cooked.

Serves 2

3 cups cooked chickpeas (or other beans of your choice)
2 – 2 ½ cups chickpea cooking liquid
½ – 1 teaspoon Harissa (depending on what spice level you like and your brand of Harissa)
About 4 cups washed mustard greens, cut into ribbons
1 clove garlic, minced (optional)
Olive oil
Crumbled feta for serving
Salt and Pepper

Heat the chickpeas and their liquid in a saucepan. Sauté the mustard greens with the garlic in a bit of olive oil until just wilted and lightly salt. This should only take about 3-5 minutes.

When ready to serve, stir the Harissa into the chickpeas and portion the soup into bowls. Top with the mustard greens and a bit of feta. Drizzle on a little more good olive oil and grind of pepper and enjoy!

Chickpeas and Harissa topped with mustard greens and feta

Chickpeas and Harissa topped with mustard greens and feta (photo courtesy of Mark Timby)

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Tomato-Braised Collards and Beans

This makes a lot which is a good thing since it's even better the next day.

Tomato-Braised Collards with Beans

All the talk of bean and lentil-eating traditions around the New Year suits me perfectly. They are thought to bring prosperity and health. I’ll happily discuss and cook those darlings any day so all the recent posts and meals cooked by friends that contained black-eyed or yellow-eyed peas and lentils have been a treat. A New Year’s day party at Cathy Whims’s of the fabulous Nostrana featured said yellow-eyed peas (from Rancho Gordo) and were a creamy, tender revelation served with garlicky collards and rice stewed in a rich tomato sauce, all inspired by my friend Bryant Terry’s wonderful book The Inspired Vegan. So last week I made my own variation of his Butter Bean and Tomato-Drenched Collards with Parsley.

Any dish where I can toss in previously cooked (and often frozen) beans to make a meal that tastes like it’s been simmered for hours that very day, in little time makes me happy and a bit smug, I’ll admit. I used Ayers Creek Zolfino beans that I had previously cooked and let those stew with the collards and tomato sauce. I think most any bean would be good in this preparation so don’t sweat the details and use what you have.

We ate this for several days and it just kept getting better. On the third day I had it for lunch over buttery Mashed Potatoes and Rutabagas inspired by another favorite new cookbook, Roots by Diane Morgan. That combination might have to be repeated.

This is not only delicious but very economical, rounded out with good bread or a favorite grain or a couple of fried eggs, and can keep you sated for days.

Finally, I have one spot left in my upcoming cooking class Winter Vegetables & Pantry Staples so sign up right away if you’re interested.

Happy New Year and Happy Cooking!

Tomato-Braised Collards with Beans

This makes a lot which is a good thing since it’s even better the next day.

Tomato-Braised Collards with Beans
–adapted from The Inspired Vegan by Bryant Terry

Bryant uses sun-dried tomatoes that he rehydrates and blends with the soaking liquid, vinegar, lemon juice and tomato paste. I’ve had good results cooking down regular canned tomatoes with the vinegar and lemon juice so, use what you have to create a nice rich tomato sauce in which you cook the collards. And if you by chance oven-roasted frozen tomatoes from last fall, they are perfect for this dish.

Bryant adds home-cooked butter (lima) beans and broth to the tomato-y greens for the last half hour of cooking. You can do the same, use different beans or omit the broth and serve the greens over rice or quinoa or another grain of your choosing or mashed potatoes and rutabagas! I used Zolfino beans from Ayers Creek Farm.

2 bunches collards, leaves and stems, well washed
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 serrano chile, sliced thinly (optional) use ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes if you don’t have a chile
Salt
1 generous cup dried tomatoes (see headnote)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
3-4 cups cooked white beans (see headnote) (lima/butter, cannellini, navy, or even pinto would all be good)
5 cups vegetable or chicken stock
¼ cup chopped, fresh parsley (optional but very good)

Put the dried tomatoes in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Let soak for 20 minutes. Drain and reserve liquid.

Thinly slice the collard stems and set aside. Cut the leaves into bite-sized pieces. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Toss in the collard stems and cook for 2 minutes. Add the leaves and cook for 2 more minutes. Drain well.

Put the soaked tomatoes, tomato paste, lemon juice vinegar and 1 cup of soaking liquid in a blender or food processor and process until smooth.

In a large pot heat the olive oil and add the onion and sauté for a few minutes. Add the garlic and Serrano and sauté for another 3-5 minutes until just beginning to brown. Add the tomato mixture and cook for 20 minutes until it begins to thicken, stirring frequently.

Add the reserved collard leaves and stems, the broth and the beans and simmer on low heat, partially covered for 30 minutes. Stir in the parsley, adjust seasoning and serve.

This is even better the next day!

Gardening With What You Have & Green Garlic and Leek Soup

You’re supposed to make a garden plan–mapping out what’s going to go where so that the season unfolds productively with plants following the right plants and planted in the right combination and with the right exposure. You’re supposed to amend the soil with this and that and double dig. . . .Well, my garden would never materialize if I  did all that. I know folks who do these things who have better yields and prettier gardens and someday I will be more organized. But in the mean time I garden much like a cook–without a whole lot of planning when I have a little time. I’ll pick up a few seed packets here and there and eventually some starts and then go for it.

Green (immature garlic), leeks, radicchio and endive. . . .my harvest to make room for new crops.

We finally had a few dry, sunny days this last weekend and I wanted to plant peas and sow arugula and dinosaur kale. When I examined my little vegetable patch I realized I didn’t have room for anything. So I harvested a bunch of small-ish leeks, some green garlic and various salad greens and transplanted a few lettuces, tucking them in between the strawberry plants, to make room for my  new little project. My rows won’t be straight and my germination rate might be puny but I loved my morning in the garden with the sun on my back.

You can use lots of green garlic as it's much milder and sweeter than mature garlic.

And then I made a lovely soup with my harvest. It’s a loose interpretation of potato leek soup. I didn’t measure anything and kept things simple. Leeks, green garlic–green garlic is one of my favorite parts of spring. I plant garlic in the fall to use exclusively in the spring in its green, immature form. Like scallions you can use the whole thing and finely sliced and stewed in a little butter or olive oil it improves everything it touches. Or use it raw in salad dressings and quick herby sauces. I added a few potatoes to the soup, some thyme and water and that’s about it. Oh a touch of cream at the end rounded things out nicely but you could skip that too.

Spring leek and green garlic soup with fresh goat cheese toast.

Spring Leek and Green Garlic Soup

4-5 leeks (or whatever you have–I used about 6 small ones), sliced
1 bunch green garlic (6-8 whole plants), roots trimmed and finely sliced
1 tablespoon each butter and olive oil
3 medium potatoes (more or less), diced
a few sprigs of thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
5 cups (more or less) water
Salt & pepper
1/4 cup of heavy cream (optional)
Good olive oil to drizzle

Stew the garlic, leeks and thyme in the oil and butter, slowly, over medium heat until the vegetables are very soft. Add the potatoes, water and some salt and simmer until the potatoes are very tender (about 20 minutes).  Adjust seasoning, add pepper and then puree with an immersion blender (or in a blender or food processor) until smooth-ish. Finish with a little cream and serve with a good drizzle of olive oil and if you’d like a piece of toasted bread with fresh goat cheese.

Genius Recipe

 

That’s a risky title. When I worked at a restaurant many years ago the chef, wisely, noted that you should never call anything the “best this” or “world-famous that”. . . it’s annoying, it’s highly subjective, so on and so forth. I think this falls into a slightly different category. The folks at Food52 ask folks to submit genius recipes and I believe they define them as just plain smart, unusual, surprisingly delicious, and/or unexpected in their simplicity and success. I’ve been meaning to submit this recipe to them but in the meantime, here it is. And it has an irreverent title to boot!

It’s toasted bread, rubbed with garlic, slathered with pesto and doused with brothy black beans. That’s it and it’s really, really good. Make it and tell me when you do and what you think.

Zuppa Bastarda (“Bastard Soup”)
–inspired by Carol Boutard (of Ayers Creek Farm) who got the recipe from Nostrana which got the recipe from Anne Bianchi.

Bastard soup is so named because it uses black beans, which are called fascistini in honor of what Elda Cecchi calls “that black shirted bastard who brought Italy to the brink of destruction during WWII.”

It’s very simple to make. And if you have previously cooked black beans with their broth on hand by all means just use those. The garlic and pesto on the toasted bread add lots of flavor so don’t be put off by its simplicity.

1 ¼ cups dried black beans, soaked (or 3 cups of cooked black beans in their cooking liquid, see headnote)
6 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 medium onion, peeled and cut in half
2 tsp dried crumbled dried sage or chopped, fresh sage
6 3/4-inch thick slices good bread, toasted
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons basil pesto
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Drain the beans and place in a soup pot along with 3 cloves of the garlic, the onion, sage, 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt and enough water to cover by 2 inches. Heat to boiling over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 25 – 45 minutes or until beans are tender. Cut the remaining garlic cloves in half. Using half a clove for each 2 slices of bread, rub the bread with the cut sides of the garlic until the bread is perfumed with the odor, spread about 1 tablespoon of pesto on each slice. Divided the slices among 6 bowls and pour the bean soup into the bowls over the bread. Drizzle with olive oil. Serve hot.

Happy Cooking and Eating!

P.S. I’ve posted a bunch of new classes, shorter, cheaper and with new subject matter, including one for youth/kids and pantry stocking/quick meals one.

I used Black Basque beans (grown by Ayers Creek Farm in Gaston, Oregon) this time around and they have a much lighter hue when cooked. Usually I use Black Turtle beans which are much darker. It works well with both or probably any other kind of black bean you have. Getting the best, freshest beans you can find is always good though.

 

 

Winter Comfort (Caldo Verde)

Curly Savoy Cabbage

Cabbage, turnips, rutabagas, celery root, carrots, beets, and kale are my dear friends this time of year.  Yesterday I was writing my E-newsletter and I started with: “if you need to use up half a rutabaga and a few carrots. . . .” and then stopped and changed that to: “this recipe is a great way to enjoy rutabagas, carrots, . . .”.  It got me thinking about the semantic treatment of the less-than-sexy veggies or maybe any bits and pieces that remain in the crisper long after they’ve been purchased.

My four-year-old and I devoured the rutabaga and carrot latkes I was writing about and he requested that I make them for lunch everyday now. They were just plain delicious. So I am consciously changing my recipe writing tone to promote these winter workhorses that are packed with nutrients, endlessly adaptable and combinable, and in season in many parts of the country right now.

Today’s post features one of those winter veggies that keeps in the crisper (and stays crisp) for weeks: cabbage. Cabbage and potatoes showed up here just a few weeks ago but today’s recipe for the Portuguese Caldo Verde is completely different, quick and so satisfying.

Cabbage, potatoes, and chorizo

An early Christmas present to myself in the form of Tender, Nigel Slater’s completely absorbing book about veggies, inspired the revival of this dish in our household. . .as well as the ever-present half-head of cabbage in the fridge, and my job writing recipes for CSA Farm members.

Caldo Verde--Just as good or better the next day though a little less photogenic.

Caldo Verde (Cabbage and Potato Soup with Chorizo)
–adapted very slightly from Tender, by Nigel Slater 

Savoy cabbage is very good in this but regular ol’ green cabbage or any kind of kale works just as well. One chorizo is really plenty to flavor this soup well but if you’ve got meat lovers at the table feel free to toss in another. If you’d like to make this without the meat, I would add a teaspoon or two of smoked Spanish paprika (Pimenton) and another clove or two of garlic at the beginning.

Serves 4

Olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
3 -4 medium waxy potatoes such as Yukon Gold, scrubbed and cut into medium dice
4-5 cups water or broth
2 bay leaves
1 chorizo sausage (about 4 oz), cut into thin rounds
4 cups Savoy cabbage (or other, see headnote), cut into thin strips
Salt and pepper
Good olive oil for drizzling

Saute the onion and garlic over medium-low heat in a large pot in a bit of olive oil until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the potatoes and cook for a few more minutes before adding the water (or broth), bay leaves and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then turn down and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the potatoes are quite soft. Meanwhile fry the slices of chorizo in a small pan until they are crisp and the fat has been rendered.

Mash the potatoes in the pot with a fork or potato masher until partially broken down. You want the potatoes to thicken the soup but also leave plenty of lumps. Add the cabbage and cook for a few minutes until tender. Add the chorizo, adjust for salt and serve the soup drizzled with good olive oil and another grind of pepper.

Happy Cooking and Eating!

Simple Italian Lentil and Rice Stew

Arborio rice and small French green lentils (or if you can find them you can use small brown Italian lentils from Umbria)

Rice and lentils are a classic combination. All over the Middle East you find versions of Mujaddara, a dish of rice and lentils garnished with caramelized onions often flavored with cumin. Sometimes there’s a little tomato sauce in the mix or a spicy harissa. There are Indian versions as well.

This simple Italian combination of arborio rice and small either French green or Italian brown lentils is the perfect lunch or dinner with a salad on the side. You cook the lentils and rice in the same pot with just some garlic, parsley and a little tomato and some good broth of your choosing or veggie bouillon.  Dress it up with some more parsley, some parmesan and a drizzle of good olive oil and dig in.

Rice and lentil stew with parmesan and parsley.

There’s nothing fancy about this and that’s why it’s such a winner for when all you have is your pantry–which hopefully always contain rice and lentils. Either short or long-grain brown rice would work too though you would increase the cooking time for the rice a bit. Parsley grows almost year-round here in Western Oregon so this is truly a pantry meal in our household. You could probably substitute dried oregano and/or thyme and add a bay leaf to the broth when you’re cooking it if there’s no parsley on hand. And come to think of it, a dollop of harissa would probably be delicious with this.

Happy Cooking and Eating!

Italian Lentil and Rice Stew

1/2 cup of small French green lentils or Italian brown lentils

1 cup Arborio rice

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 tablespoons (more or less), Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped

1-2 medium tomatoes, diced (I used 4 halves of roasted tomatoes that I roast and freeze for just such things) or 2 canned tomatoes, without their juice, diced

4 cups stock, broth, veggie bouillon broth, etc.

parmesan

good olive oil for drizzling

a bit more parsley for garnish

Saute the parsley and garlic for just about a minute in a saucepan in a little olive oil. Add the tomatoes and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the lentils and the broth (if the broth is not salty add 1 teaspoon of salt at this point) and bring to a boil. Turn down and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the rice (if using brown rice you want to add the rice at the same time as the lentils) and cook for another 15 minutes or so until both lentils and rice are tender but not mushy. There will still be a little liquid in the pan which is how it should be. Adjust seasoning.

Sever with parmesan, parsley and a drizzle of good oil

Green Curry Summer Squash Soup

A lovely summery soup of squash, new potatoes, coconut milk and basil over rice.

I’ve had a good summer squash recipe repertoire for quite a while. But this year I’m expanding it even more. This season I am  creating customized recipe packets for a local CSA farm here in the Portland area every week. The farmer tells me what will be in the share on Saturday and by Sunday night I submit a comprehensive packet of recipes and tips for that week’s produce. Zucchini and all manner of summer squash are a mainstay in the share this time of year and I’ve enjoyed trying some new recipes for these tender, sweet, prolific veggies.

New potatoes and summer squash.

This dish was inspired by the ever clever and creative Heidi Swanson from her new book Super Natural Every Day. I’ve changed a bunch of things: I omitted the tofu croutons since I rarely have tofu on  hand. I served it on rice to give it heft and make it a one-dish meal. I used green instead of red curry paste, onions instead of shallots and added lots of basil.

This recipe uses a good number of summer squash so it’s a great way to work through the stash many of us find ourselves with right now. It’s great warmed up the next day for lunch either eaten as soup or over rice. I can imagine this being delicious with other veggies as well as the season changes so experiment as you see fit. It would also be delicious with some chicken or prawns if you want to dress it up a bit and make it heartier.

And please let me know if you have any favorite summer squash/zucchini recipes. I know they’re going to keep showing up for a few more weeks and I always need more ideas.

Summer squash, potatoes, onions and garlic sweating in green curry paste and some coconut milk.

Green Curry Summer Squash Soup

–adapted from Super Natural Everyday by Heidi Swanson

4-5 medium zucchini or other summer squash like yellow crookneck or patty pan, sliced into 1/2 inch slices

1/2 a medium onions (sweet or regular yellow onion), thinly sliced

4-5 small potatoes (new potatoes if possible), scrubbed and cut into small dice

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 – 2 heaping teaspoons green curry paste (I use the Mae Ploy brand)

1 can full fat coconut milk

2 cups veggie bouillon broth (or other veggie or chicken stock)

1/4 cup Thai basil or regular basil leaves, packed and roughly chopped (saving a bit for garnish)

salt

squeeze of lime juice to taste (optional)

Cooked white or brown, long grain rice

Put a large soup pot on medium high heat. Add about 3-4 tablespoons of the solid part of the coconut milk that makes up about the top fourth of the can, to the hot pan. Add the 1-2 teaspoons (depending on how much heat you want) of green curry paste and mash it up with the back of a spoon and blend it into the coconut milk. Fry this mixture for a couple of minutes until it becomes fragrant.

Add the sliced onion and fry for a few minutes until it softens. Add the squash and potatoes, several generous pinches of salt and cook, stirring often for 3-4 minutes. Then add the garlic, the remainder of the coconut milk and the broth. Bring to a boil, then turn down and simmer for about 10 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Add most of the basil (reserving some for a garnish) and cook for another minute or two. Adjust seasoning and add a squeeze of lime juice, if using.

Serve hot over rice and garnished with more basil.

P.S. Check out my guest post on Culinate.com about Slow Food’s $5 Challenge and join in the fun and conversation and cooking.

The Best Soup

I wish I managed to assemble blog posts with beautiful photos that illustrated the step-by-step process of each dish, but on second thought that’s not often how my cook-with-what-you-have nightly cooking unfolds so I might as well keep it realistic. And with a tired and hungry pre-schooler underfoot, photos often just don’t happen. So I’ll keep enjoying those beautiful blogs and offer you something else–a slightly more slap-dash account of meals I think are worthy of sharing and other stories.

Cilantro, White Bean and Bread Soup with Poached Egg

Whether this is the best soup or not, it is my current favorite soup. It’s a slightly unusual combination of things and comes together into one of the most satisfying and complete meals, warming body and soul on these cool, stormy evenings.

It is basically stewed leeks with white beans, veggie broth, chard and pureed cilantro served over toasted bread you rub with garlic and then top with a poached egg (that you poach right in the soup). The bread and the egg take this dish to its exquisite level. However, I’ve enjoyed leftovers of this soup without bread or egg and just a generous drizzle of good olive oil, very much.

 

Cilantro and White Beans

 

Two things that make this soup especially good are good beans and homemade veggie bouillon. The former I talked about in my last post and the latter is easy to make. As you all know I’m a bit evangelical about this veggie bouillon. I’m actually considering making it in quantity to sell so stay tuned. It has made my daily cooking easier, better, more economical and definitely more fun. You can certainly  use any stock or broth or even water and beans (dry or canned) from the store to good effect. Just make it! It’s a wonderful antidote to the sweet richness of the other foods this time of year.

 

Soup in Process

 

Finally, my Kitchen Fundamentals, Pantry Stocking  30-Minute Dinners series is filling up quickly so if you’re considering it for yourself or as a gift, let me know asap.

Happy Cooking and Eating and Celebrating!

Katherine

Cilantro Bread Soup (Acorda)

–loosely adapted from Tea & Cookies

serves 4 (with plenty of leftovers) or 6

1 cup dried white beans (cannelini, great northern, Ayers Creek white beans of any kind, Rancho Gordo Marrow beans . . . ) or 1 14 oz. can of cannelini or other white beans

2 tbs olive oil

2-3 leeks (about 2 cups, chopped)

5 large cloves garlic

6 cups home-made veggie bouillon or veggie or chicken stock

2 cups packed cilantro

one large bunch chard, stems removed, coarsely chopped (about 4 cups)

sliced crusty bread (4 slices)

4 eggs

salt and pepper, to taste

good olive oil for drizzling

Cook the beans in water with one clove of the garlic until soft. (See bean cooking instructions here) Drain and set aside. You could also use canned beans.

Trim and clean the leeks. Cut in half, lengthwise, and slice in 1/4 inch slices.

Heat olive oil in a large pot. Sauté the leeks in olive oil until limp. Add three cloves of garlic, minced. Continue sautéing until the garlic is soft but not brown about 2 minutes, lower heat as needed. Add four cups of the stock and bring to a simmer. Add the beans and continue to simmer for a minute or two. Add the chard to the pot and cook for a few minutes. Blend the cilantro with the reserved 2 cups of bouillon in a blender. Add the cilantro mixture and season with salt and pepper. Bring mixture to a rapid simmer. Crack eggs into soup, cover and let poach about 5 minutes until the yolks and whites are just set.

While eggs are cooking toast the bread slices and rub with remaining garlic cloves. You can rub one or both sides of the toast with garlic–depending on much you love garlic. Lay the bread in the bottom of a soup bowl. Ladle the soup over. Top with poached egg. Drizzle with good olive oil and grind some pepper over the top.

 

Red Lentil and Winter Squash Dhal

I love fall! It's a foggy, misty morning and this is what I found on my walk this morning.

There are dinners that are quick to prepare, there are those that take a long time and then there is the occasional one that tastes like it took a long time to make but was actually pretty quick. Today’s post is about this latter category. This is not the quickest dinner in the world but it’s very doable on a weeknight if you have the ingredients (more or less) on hand. And on a side note, I am developing a two-part series on pantry stocking and really quick dinners–20 minute dinners–so stay tuned for those.

This recipe calls for a fair number of spices (some of which you can get away with omitting if you don’t have them on hand) but having a well-stocked spice rack is awfully useful especially this time of year. Whole spices like cumin and mustard seeds, called for in this recipe, keep really well so stock up once a year on those (or more often of course if you use them lots) and you’re set. Being well-stocked in general is also a big money saver. This topic deserves a whole series of posts but maybe we can consider this the introduction.

I think of being well-stocked as the foundation for the “cook with what you have” philosophy. For me this means that I rarely shop for a specific dish/menu. Instead I shop to restock the dry goods pantry, the crisper/fridge/freezer. This kind of cooking/shopping does not suit everyone but it can be fun, creative and is definitely a good way to trim the grocery budget, if that’s a goal of yours. And with practice, this kind of cooking really is so satisfying. To quote my friend Elizabeth who after a successful dinner of this nature, said, “I stared down the fridge and I won!” And you won’t need to go whole hog down this road, but try it for a few nights and see how it works. Most people have things floating around their dry pantry that in combination with some eggs or cheese or herbs or meat or veggies would make a wonderful frittata, soup, stew, gratin, . . .. Let me know how it goes!

And with that little challenge I’m going to commit to building up my recipe archive on this site to offer more of these kinds of recipes or ideas but thisthisthisthis, and this one all might be considered in such a category.

Red Lentil and Winter Squash Dhal

–Inspired by Dana Treat’s Red Lentil Dhal which was inspired by The Modern Vegetarian

Serves 6

Yes, list of ingredients is long but most of it is spices and the dish comes together quite quickly. If you use veggie bouillon you’ll need much less salt that the recipe below calls for. It’s extra delicious with the bouillon so by all means use it if you have it, or make it if you don’t:)!

1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil

2 tsp. cumin seeds

2 tsp. black or brown mustard seeds (can omit in a pinch)

1 medium onion, finely diced

1 ½ inches of fresh ginger, peeled and minced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 jalapeno chili, seeded, finely chopped (can omit and just use more chili flakes/powder)

1 ½ tsp. curry powder

2 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. turmeric (can omit in a pinch)

Pinch of chili powder

Salt – about 2-3 tsp. kosher salt (it takes more salt than you might think unless you’re using veggie bouillon)

2 cups red lentils

2-3 cups diced winter squash (acorn, butternut, kabocha, pumpkin, etc.)

5 cups veggie bouillon or water

1 15-oz. can coconut milk

Juice of 1 lemon

½ a bunch of mint, chopped (can omit in a pinch)

½ a bunch of cilantro, chopped (can omit in a pinch or substitute parsley)

Heat just enough oil to coat the bottom of a large pan and add the mustard and cumin seeds.  As soon as they begin to pop (only takes about 30 -90 seconds) add the onion, turn down the heat to medium, and cook until softened – about five minutes. Add the ginger, garlic, minced jalapeno, curry powder, cumin, turmeric, and chile powder and fry for 3 minutes.

Add the lentils and stir to coat with the oil and spices.  Add squash, salt, water, and coconut milk.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat so the dhal is at a simmer.  Cover partially and cook, stirring occasionally so it doesn’t stick to the bottom, until the lentils and squash have partially lost their shape and are soft – about 20 minutes.  Stir in more liquid as necessary for the consistency you want. Add the chopped herbs. Cook for a minute or two then season with more sea salt and add the lemon juice to taste.  Serve warm over long grain white or brown rice and with plain Greek or other whole milk yogurt if you’d like. This also freezes well.

And finally, if you’re itching for a cooking class or would like to give someone (or yourself!) the gift of a class, there are some fun options available.

Happy cooking and eating!

Homemade Veggie Bouillon & New Classes

I’ve posted April classes – quick dinners and hearty salads! We’ll use all the wonderful spring produce to make quick dishes using eggs and we’ll make creative salads with beans, grains and savory dressings for delicious one-dish dinners. Thanks to many of you for sending me feedback about what you’d most like to learn about. I hope to see you here in my kitchen the last weekend of April for one (or both!) of the classes.

I have a cheap, old digital camera and I have no photography training. And the subject of today’s post–veggie bouillon–is not photogenic. So, forgive the ugly shots and make the bouillon anyway. It’s worth it!

Homemade veggie bouillon paste. Add 1 - 2 teaspoons of the paste to 1 cup of water for fresh, instant broth to use in soups or cook grains, etc.

One of my favorite blogs is Heidi Swanson’s 101 Cookbooks. She blogged about this basic and brilliant idea of making your own bouillon paste in a matter of minutes. (And she’s an excellent photographer so look at her photos.) I taught it in a recent cooking class and sent everyone home with a jar to keep in the freezer for that last-minute risotto, soup, braise, etc. If you have a food processor, all you do is clean the appropriate veggies (carrots, onions, leeks, tomatoes, parsley . . . .) and process them until they are very finely chopped, add lots of salt, process again and spoon into a jar. Done! Nothing is cooked, sautéed, anything. I do love veggie stock but this method of processing things raw gives a wonderful fresh, bright flavor and is quick to make and easy to store and use. When you need the broth, just spoon out 2 teaspoons of bouillon per cup of water (or more or less to your taste) and use in your respective dish. I used it in a spinach and bacon risotto this weekend and it was wonderful. I’ve also been using it instead of water in soups and stews.

I adapted Heidi’s recipe which she adapted from the River Cottage Preserves Handbook.

Homemade Bouillon

This recipe requires a food processor. As Heidi notes you can also just make this with what you have. Onions, celery, carrots and parsley are enough. Use the proportions that make sense to you. Use 1/3 cup salt for each 2 cups of finely blended veggies/herbs.

5 ounces / 150 g leeks, sliced and well-washed 
(about 1 medium)

7 ounces / 200g carrot, well scrubbed and chopped
 (about 3-4 medium)

3.5 ounces / 100 g celery
 (about 2 big stalks)

3.5 ounces / 100g celery root (celeriac), peeled and chopped (about a 3” x 3″ chunk)

1 ounce / 30g sun-dried tomatoes
 (about 6 dried tomatoes)

3.5 ounces / 100g onion or shallots, peeled

1 medium garlic clove

6 ounces / 180g kosher salt (scant 1 cup)

1.5 ounces / 40 g flat-leaf parsley, loosely chopped
 (about 1/3 of a bunch)

2 ounces / 60g cilantro (coriander), loosely chopped (about ½ bunch)

Place the first four ingredients in your food processor and pulse about twenty times. Add the next three ingredients, and pulse again. Add the salt, pulse some more. Then add the parsley and cilantro. You may need to scoop some of the chopped vegetables on top of the herbs, so they get chopped. Mine tended to want to stay on top of everything else, initially escaping the blades.

You should end up with a moist, loose paste of sorts. Keep 1/4th of it in a jar in the refrigerator for easy access in the coming days, and freeze the remaining 3/4 for use in the next month. Because of all the salt it barely solidifies making it easy to spoon directly from the freezer into the pot before boiling.

Start by using 2 teaspoons of bouillon per 1 cup (250 ml), and adjust from there based on your personal preference.

Inspired by The River Cottage Preserves Handbook by Pam Corbin. The U.S. edition of the River Cottage Preserves Handbook will be available this summer.